Alchemist In Hollywood, The (Part II)
"This film was designed to show the chemical end of the motion picture industry. The commentator, with the aid of diagrams, explains the photographic process. Diagrammatic drawings of silver-bromide crystals are shown and we are told of the chemical reaction that occurs when light falls upon them. There are experiments illustrating what occurs when the crystals are given exposures of different intensities and how they receive and store the latent image. The following sequence deals with the different chemicals used in the formation of the developer, and the fixing bath. A comparison is drawn between the "dark room" operations of the old days and the new, modernly equipped laboratories. The film closes showing a positive print being made from a negative." (California)
Ken Smith sez: This film ostensibly tells the story of Hollywood's film processing labs, but it's really just an attempt by lab geeks to show that their profession is just as exciting as a movie star's. "The alchemist makes entertainment out of silver!" proclaims one of two high-pitched, similar-sounding, nerdy narrators (Ralph Atkinson? Sid Solow?) as he reads the script mechanically; you can actually hear him turning the pages. These first few minutes are filled with much talk of "movie stars" and shots of theater marquees. Then the narrators apologize for the upcoming "rather technical language" and begin a 20 minute discussion of "photoconductance," "thermal agitation" and "the sensitivity speck" while type-on-paper graphics fill the screen. A series of lab demonstrations come next, in which we see a hand repeatedly dip strips of 16mm film into flasks of chemicals. "One of the most important characteristics of processing solutions is their pH value," narrator #1 explains. "Since film densities vary directly as a logarithm of exposures, it is possible to plot a curve which is valuable as a means of control!" Next, we're taken for a behind-the-scenes peek at a Hollywood film developing lab. "Automatic precision control is the keynote of the modern laboratory," boasts narrator #2 while we see shots of giant dials and pipes, big machines with lots of sprocket wheels, and studious employees wearing white lab coats. "In a modern laboratory, quality is not left to HUMAN judgment -- but is controlled by scientific methods!" "The alchemist in Hollywood has found the Philosopher's Stone in a tiny crystal of silver bromide," either narrator #1 or #2 reminds us. "With billions of these crystals, he converts these lifeless rolls of motion picture film into the golden miracle of romance, education, entertainment!"
Subject: A teaching film!
It should also be noted that it was made in 1940, yes, cheaply and with no entertainment frills!
I wonder if Mr. Solow's USC "laboratory techniques" students were required to watch it?! He is the 1st narrator to be heard on the film. He later became the lab head and developed many award winning techniques used in film labs.
Subject: Fascinatingly Cheap.
First starting off with flimsy opening credits (The American Chemical Society badly needs a new logo) the film credits Shirley Burden, curiously, as doing most of thje pghotography. Most? As the narration starts, it sounds like it's done though an echo chamber and sounds hopelessly snooty. Oh they seem to know their way around a chemistry lab though, as 15 minutes go by discussing film emulsion chemistry. Most of it is very convuluted. Try to follow the 8 step chart to how a film is developed. If you think that's bad, the remaining 10 minutes are worse. It's very puzzling to figure out WHO this film was made for, as it seems to glamorize hollywood and film processes, yet totally bogs it down with scientific mumbo-jumbo. The second part picks up a bit though, with actual demonstrations. Best line "If the film is not ready yet, dunk dunk it goes". The narration in the 2nd part is what increases the film from a 1 star rating to a 2 star. The narrator, still in the echo chamber, is OBVIOUSLY reading from a script.. why? You can heard him turning the pages! As well, he fumbles some words, and yet they just keep going! At one point, the Narrator says "For the purposes of this film, we will not talk about sound". Which says it all.